Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Gavin de Beers NPC to help or hinder

SYSTEM: ICONS

Here's a relatively low-powered character with very little in the way of combat skills and some infinitely-abusable powers. I came up with him/her/it while thinking of a one-shot I'd like to run (more on that tomorrow). The character is a reason for the hook at the start, but since the secret is revealed at the end of the first scene or start of the second, it's not huge.

This is Gavin de Beers, professional bodyguard, hostage, and distraction. Through whatever mechanisms you have in your game, Gavin has ended up with two and a half actual superpowers.

Gavin can look like anyone. It takes time and requires either a skill roll or eating a part of the person with DNA or both (try imitating someone who has had a nose job and see that the skill roll is necessary). It takes ten minutes or more; the skill roll is not necessary if there's no alteration of the body; the DNA isn't really ever necessary, it just makes the skill roll easier or unnecessary.

He generally gets the physical characteristics of his original but rarely powers. (If the power is strictly physical, is visible, and Gavin has ingested the DNA, maybe. GM's call.)

Gavin's other main ability is duplication. Depending on the size of the person, Gavin can make three to eight duplicates. The duplicates are generally under his mental control, and can do the shapeshifting but not duplication. The duplicates are of Gavin at the time of the duplication. For time reasons, he prefers to shapeshift first and duplicate second.

Gavin can shapeshift so that his skin looks and feels like clothes...but he prefers not to do that. Hostages tend to have their clothes ripped and torn and if it's his skin...it hurts.

The shapeshifting comes with an ability to regenerate slowly and while thinking very hardabout it. Yes, he can heal, and no, he never goes into the field thinking that he will do that. If he's not conscious, it doesn't happen, so a gunshot to the chest kills him just like a normal person. While he's regenerating, he does need to keep rolling to keep the impersonation going; otherwise there tends to be a balding early thirties man sitting there healing.

One additional ability that is generally done as a stunt: if he has ingested the person's DNA, he can usually tell if the person has powers in the sense that they will "taste" different if they're super in some defined ways, like a mutation or a physical transformation. He can't tell what the powers are, he just knows they exist. On a good roll, he might be able to distinguish between expressed and latent powers.

Your use of Gavin depends on your needs, but by default, he works for a small agency.

Here's how he might look in ICONS for 35 points:

PRW CRD STR INT AWR WIL STA
4 3 3 3 4 5 8
Specialties
  • Military
  • Performance (Acting)
  • Weapons (Guns)
Powers
  • Fair (4) Transform (humanoids)
    • Limit: Preparation, Requires Roll (+2 to level from 2)
    • Extra: Effect Regeneration, Limit: Concentration
  • Good (5) Duplication
    • Extra: Mental Control
    • Limits: Preparation (pays for extra), level depends on current size (+2 to level from 3)
Qualities

As useful NPC:

  • Licensed bodyguard Gavin de Beers
  • Good threat assessment
  • You scratch my back, I scratch yours

As irritating NPC:

  • Licensed bodyguard Gavin de Beers
  • Don't get in my way
  • Revenge can be legal...or not illegal

Friday, August 3, 2018

Fiction Friday: A Kindness for Raven (Freedom City)

From the days of second edition Freedom City is this one...

A Kindness for Raven

Callie Summers opened her own door, unlike other debutantes. A handsome man stood in the hallway, a valise in his hand, and not dressed for the summer heat. Instead he wore an old-fashioned black suit.
"Greetings, I am Liang Jiangua," said the man in Mandarin Chinese. She gave him no impression she understood, instead staring blankly. "I am your birthday gift." She showed no signs of understanding. He sighed and repeated himself in English. He smiled. "You may call me...Edgar." He looked at her as if it were significant.
"Thank you," Callie said. "My birthday is not until tomorrow, and we already have an Edgar." A loud squawk came from the penthouse as Edgar heard his name mentioned.
"May I come in?" asked the man. Callie moved to one side, and the man entered. He set down his bags and then stood stiffly at attention. "Liang Jiangua, lady's gentleman," he said. "References available on request. I hope you don't mind that I was in the hall. Someone was leaving, so I entered the building." He frowned. "Having a Chinese mother, I assumed you would speak Mandarin."
"No, I never learned the language," Callie lied. "Too much shopping to do." Her mother had been the daughter of an international criminal mastermind, but that was not common knowledge.
"Perhaps your mother Jasmine wanted to put her past behind her," he agreed. "I was hired by your father."
Callie considered for a moment. Her father was out of touch right now, looking for a new student for the Claremont Academy at a place near Death Valley that was so remote it didn't support cellphones. "How overprotective of Daddy," she said. "But not needed."
"He was most insistent." The man looked at the truncated hallway. "Surely you have this whole floor?"
The hallway hid The Rookery from visitors, but most visitors didn't notice it was shortened. "No, that part of the floor is owned by the building for maintenance and equipment."
Edgar the raven squawked again. Callie looked over at the clock—she had someone to meet soon. "I have to go—I have to get ready for an appointment. Thank you."
"I will stay and wait."
"You will go. A girl has to worry about appearances." She escorted him with bags out the front door and shut it firmly behind him. He had been cute but with no way to check on him, she wasn't about to give him access to her home. Especially when she had an appointment as the Raven.
* * *
It was hot and windless out. The small man stank of fear. He kept looking over his shoulder.
The Raven stood in the shadows so no one could see her. "You wanted me." In costume, she pitched her voice lower, in her natural range. As far as the other debutantes of Freedom City were concerned, Callie Summers had a higher, different voice.
"Yeah. The Crime League is holding auditions. They're expanding." His voice was reedy.
"Where and when?"
He told her: an auto wrecking yard in Lincoln, that night.
The Raven was there first, hiding. Too bad the League was off-planet, but she would just observe.
* * *
"Isn't this a bit of a comedown for you?" Wildcard asked. "Babysitting, I mean." He had a deck of cards in a hand and was practicing one-handed cuts.
"Nah," Orion said. "I think about ways of hunting them. It passes the time."
"Riiiiiight," said Wildcard. Cut. Cut. Cut.
"Sure. Those two?" he said of Rant and Rave. "I'd separate them, first off. Others, I don't know what their powers are yet. You don't use a sharp stick on an invulnerable person, right?" He sniffed. Oil and gas, rust, old metal.
"I do, but it often turns out they are vulnerable to that kind of stick," said Wildcard. "Kind of a disappointing turnout." There were five people auditioning: Rant and Rave, a thin man in a cardboard helmet, a mild balding scientist with a potbelly and his blond friend.
"Just plan more ways to kill each one, is all." Wildcard looked at Orion, but he seemed imperturbable. Orion strode to the center of the lit gravel beneath the gantry of the car-crusher, and looked at the five hopefuls. "This is the first stage. Impress me and you go on. You first." He pointed at the scientist.
"Well, uh, I'm Dr. Olim. And I've worked on certain...techniques...to control people. And things. As an example, I brought along a young man of my acquaintance." He indicated the blonde young man beside him, who looked half-asleep. He wore no shirt, and he was in green slacks. No shoes.
"Techniques?" asked Wildcard, lounging on the hood of an old car, still warm from the heat of the day. Today had been a scorcher. He could wear the uniform now that the day had cooled a bit. The scent of oil still rose from the car.
"Mind control techniques. My work brings me into contact with...special...individuals." He pulled out a device that had hung at his side and twisted a knob. "Behold!"
Hair sprouted all over the young man's body, and other changes twisted and shaped him. In a minute, a man-wolf crouched there on the claws of his hands and feet.
"He's a mutant," explained Dr. Olim. "Extract of wolf glands helped bring out his latent abilities. And I can control his every move. Does anyone want to fight him?"
"I'll take him on," said the man with the ridiculous helmet.
"Impervious to damage?" asked Orion in a bored fashion.
"Better. I'm magnetic. I call myself...Dipole!" He struck a pose.
"Eventual aim?" asked Wildcard, noting it on a piece of paper.
"Retire with my own island."
"Ah, money." To Orion, sotto voce, he said, "Easier to control than the world domination types."
"Just different," said Orion. "To-may-to, to-mah-to."
The man-wolf lifted a leg and urinated on Dipole. Orion permitted himself a snicker. "Best move, son, or he'll be humping your leg next."
Dipole turned on his force field and a yellow glow surrounded him. "Just you wait!" said Dipole, and he moved back as cars flew off nearby piles to form a cage around the man-wolf: left, right, front, back, top. A dark shape flew from one of the cars.
"Raven!" cried Wildcard. A boomerang hit him on the side of the head, but it was only a flesh wound. Raven had melded with the darkness around them.
Gingerly protecting the side of his head, Wildcard said, "She'll leave and bring the Freedom League on us!"
Orion shook his head. "She won't. They're off-planet. And I prepared a few surprises." He spoke to the candidates. "New test. Anyone who brings me Raven goes to the next level."
Wildcard watched them go, then said to Orion, "They won't win."
"No," he replied. "But they'll tire her out."
* * *
Didn't get Wildcard, thought Raven. Mutant luck powers. Of course that was the car I was in. Got to get out of here—odds are bad—
She felt the wire almost too late: the precariously-balanced car came down, and she stepped back in time, but the noise let them know where she was. She immediately dodged to the side and down a different aisle in the yard. I hope none of them can fly.
* * *
Rant held his sister's hand as they moved slowly in the darkness, the beams of their flashlights stabbing the darkness. "Even if we see her, we won't recognize her," said Rave. She touched her hair again. She had only dyed it green yesterday.
"She won't look like a car," said Rant patiently. "You've got your blindness up?"
"Of course. Do I look like an idiot? If we can get into the Crime League, we'll always have someone to spring us—"
Something hit the ground behind them. Rave turned around to see the source of the noise.
The stun grenade caught her full on. She stood like a deer caught by a car.
Rant was shielded from the blast by her body. He looked for the source of the grenade. Whump! and his sister was torn from his hold. She rolled to a stop away from Raven. He screamed then, a shout more potent than dynamite, but he missed, shattering a tower of cars.
Raven shared her father's distaste for psionicists. If you can't trust your mind, what can you trust? She had to put Rave down now. She took position and lashed out with her leg, a powerful position but one that left her open. Rave twisted and took the force of the blow on her arm. Not good enough. Fortunately, Rant missed again. That gave Raven an idea.
She grabbed the green-haired woman from behind and put her in the way of Rave's next shout—which hit his sister; Raven's fingers tingled from the sound, but Rave slumped in her arms. My files show you have ultrahearing, thought Raven, so let's see how you like this. She tossed a grenade at him, averting her eyes, and trusted her earplugs to filter out the worst noise.
The grenade went off loudly enough to deafen a normal man, but Rant wasn't a normal man. Still, the shock was enough to surprise him, and his next shout went wide, tearing the side mirror off an old Toyota.
Raven swarmed in and kicked Rant in the solar plexus—if he couldn't breathe, he couldn't scream. Rant staggered back with a painful oof sound. He held his arms up and made a mewling sound, surprised by it, and Raven closed in with a series of swift blows to the head and gut that knocked him out.
She was going to tie them up—there were warrants on these two—but she heard footsteps. My grenade has attracted attention. She melted behind a pile of cars as Dr. Olim and the man-wolf came nearer.
The man-wolf stopped, bent his nose to the ground, and seemed confused by the fight. Then he stopped and urinated on Rant, but it didn't wake the man up. Finally, the creature began casting around for her scent, going in ever-larger circles.
Finally, he was looking straight at the place where she was. His nostrils twitched. There was no question of surprise—he knew she was there. Dr. Olim twisted a knob on his controller, making the man-wolf yelp as he slashed at Raven.
He was fast, faster than she was, but he missed her with his first slash. Raven moved away from the tower of cars and tossed a grenade at him; the explosion didn't seem to bother him or blind him at all. His front claws tore at her cape as she dodged out of the way, and she could feel the sweat popping out on her back and forehead.
Got to take him down fast, too. She shifted position and kicked. He was better than Rave, so this was more of a risk, but she had to take him down and she had the feeling that a boomerang blow wouldn't be enough.
And his hide was tough: tough enough to shrug off one of her hardest hits. He slashed at her extended leg and caught her, but she went with it and minimized the hurt.
But it still hurt.
Okay, take him down from a distance. She withdrew and threw down a smoke grenade—but the man-wolf didn't depend on sight. He surged forward and hit her again, but this time she had more room to maneuver and managed to ride the blow.
Raven twisted again and hit him as hard as she could but connected with the big muscles of the leg. He shredded her costume again—she felt the coolness of his claws against her skin, and then the heat of her own blood down her arm.
One more time she hit him, and connected solidly with his temple. The blow would have incapacitated a normal man, but it only slowed the man-wolf down. She followed that with a hard punch to the solar plexus, but it bounced off the muscles of his belly.
He raked his arm across her back, but they shredded her cape and only tore skin and flesh. Weakness ran down her side and she toppled to the hard gravel.
Dr. Olim took this moment to dash forward and kick her.
He missed.
She snatched the controller from the doctor. With one twist of a knob, she had the man-wolf on its knees.
Dr. Olim tried—and failed—to get the controller back. "You fool! You don't know what you're doing!"
Raven smiled grimly and flipped a switch. Dr. Olim backed away, then screamed as the man-wolf neared him. She let them get out of sight, then turned the creature back into a man and broke the remote control under her boot heel. There were four ways out of the next intersection: one led the way she had come, another to the center, the third had been the way Dr. Olim had run. She chose the fourth.
Her blood smell was added to the scents of rust and oil. If the light were better, pursuers would easily see the bloodspots—as it was, they were merely hard to see. Her arm and torso hurt, and her claw-slashes burned. All of the entrants to the Crime League were in this half of the auto graveyard; if she could double around, she might be able to avoid Orion's traps and get out, get the police. She was going to need medical attention for these wounds.
She got two hundred more feet, around the circle, when cars flew from the nearby piles and caged her on all sides. She didn't resist.
"No fight?" asked the slim man in the cardboard head-dress. His leg was still dark where the werewolf had urinated on him. If he had kept his force field up— Hmm. It was down now.
Raven shrugged, saving her strength. She could crawl there and she could get loose—
A fifth car landed atop the others, making a neat box. Now she was trapped; exit would involve going through the cars—the back window was gone on this old Taurus, so she could wriggle in, lower a side window, and get out, but it would take time. Fortunately, the cars blocked his sight of her as well. She dove into the Taurus.
"Hey!" he yelled. "Hey, I've got her! Down here! Hey!"
She was pleased he hadn't remembered to use his powers to, say, use the solenoids in the car engines to generate electricity. But she supposed he would have to take apart the car engines for that, and he didn't want to get close to her.
He yelled all the time for the others, and they seemed to be taking their time. Finally, he paused, and she stopped moving.
"You're my ticket to the big leagues," he told her conversationally, gasping between words. "The big money."
She hit him on the head from behind, then, and he never saw her. Another shot, and he was down.
Some day, he would learn to keep his force field up all the time.
Raven sprinted as fast as she could. Orion and Wildcard were coming, and she hadn't the strength to deal with both of them. Her arm throbbed and her side ached.
The way out should be down here. Focus, she thought. Focus.
A large figure 4 blocked her way. She stopped, played her flashlight over it. It's a deadfall, she thought, looking at the car balanced there, but he can't imagine I'd fall for that. Perhaps for runners? She decided that Orion had set up a few of these traps for candidates who lost their nerve.
She edged past it, careful not to disturb it.
When the snare caught her ankle, it was a complete surprise. A car hit the ground in the next aisle, and the cable attached to it yanked her upward. She hung upside down in the middle of the row of cars. And they knew where she was.
She twisted upwards. The cable was metal, so there was no breaking it. She reached for a small torch normally used for solder and began burning through the cable. With her weight on it, the cable might break sooner.
It was awkward holding her body twisted like this. Her cape hung to the ground—and caught on something. Looking down, she saw the spikes below her.
So she grabbed the cable with one hand and pushed her body to one side, beginning to swing. With luck, the rhythm of the swinging would let her fall to one side of the spikes when the cable broke. The cable was white-hot now, but still intact. She kept the flame on it.
She could hear Wildcard's footsteps in the dirt. Orion made no sound. Break, damn you, break!
It broke just as she passed over the spikes, and she flew into the darkness onto a car hood, with a loud thump.
Her ankle throbbed. She moved to cover—Remember Orion has night goggles—then probed it. I think it's just a sprain, but I may not be able to walk on it.
She saw Orion, backlit by lights at the central electromagnet.
But he doesn't know that.
* * *
Orion sniffed. He smelled blood. It wasn't Dr. Olim's—he had found the man in the trap two rows over, the blond man standing dumbly over him. Rant and Rave were still out, as was Dipole. It had to be Raven's.
She didn't have the powers that Lady Liberty had, so she should be easy game. He had tracked her to here. All he had to do was find her. Close work—he would switch to a pistol for this.
"You're underestimating her," said Wildcard. "I've seen that before, too."
"Shut up," said Orion.
"You know what? You deserve to get yourself beaten by her. I'm going home. There's nothing for me here—everyone else has lost."
Orion said, "She's nothing but practice."
"For your precious Lady Liberty? And what am I?" Orion said nothing. "We were supposed to evaluate some people. They failed. We're done." Wildcard knew when his luck had run out. He called out, "Done, do you hear?" and left, his flashlight bobbing as he walked.
"I'll get her." Something glinted in the artificial green light of his night goggles. He picked it up—a length of cable with a loop fashioned in the end.
Behind him, there was a tinkle of breaking glass. He looked, scanning for activity, and saw only a boomerang that hadn't been there before.
A scream beside him deafened him, and he glance: a dark shape blocked out the light, hit him across the eyes: it didn't hurt him but broke his goggles. The cape wrapped around her, hid her, but he fired blindly three times.
Missed, he thought. But the smell of blood was fresher, stronger. She's close.
He rolled down the eyepieces so he could see. It was dark here. He had planned on Raven moving away from him, so he could control her, but she had moved the attack to him. Animals didn't do that, unless they were hurt.
Unless they're hurt.
He backed off quickly and swapped his pistol for his rifle. I want aim and power, he thought.
A grenade fell at his feet. He dived, but the smoke still enveloped him, blinded him. He moved slowly to his feet. According to the files of the Crime League, she couldn't see through this either. He was relatively safe as long as he was in the smoke. Good thing there wasn't any wind tonight.
The smoke started to clear. He lifted his rifle to shoot at her. Assume she's still over there—she's hurt, remember.
She swung on a cable into the darkness, directly into him, hitting him in the chest with her boot. He flew backward, and hit his head on a car. He didn't move again.
* * *
She fell going over the fence and had to choose between calling the police—there were eighteen warrants on Orion alone—or between getting on the motorcycle. She chose the motorcycle. Lincoln didn't have enough tall buildings for her to swing, and by the pain in her arm, she couldn't have done it again, anyway.
She wobbled going down the streets, and though she took back streets, as she approached the Rookery she still had to swerve around several cars.
In the secret garage under the Rookery, she slid the bike into a wall. Eventually she moved. Stupid to die like this, she thought. But he got me with one of those bullets... If I can just get upstairs—
There was a figure over her. A figure in a dark suit.
Liang.
"I am also trained in combat medicine," he said, and he reached for her.
She said in Mandarin, "I suspected as much." Then she fainted.
* * *
The sheets were clean and crisp. She was in her own bedroom. She looked at her arm and belly. Her wounds had been cleaned and neatly stitched. She looked brown with disinfectant. She made a phone call, speaking quietly. She was just breaking the connection when Liang came in.
"Ah. You are awake," he said in English. "I am sorry I had to give myself away."
"I knew you'd be there," she said in Mandarin.
"I am glad you trusted me." He answered her in the same language.
"No. I knew. A deduction. You're not a gift from my father."
He said nothing.
"Be honest."
He looked straight ahead. "I am a gift from your grandfather."
"My father would not have sprung such a gift on me without checking to see if I liked him first. And because you are a gift from my grandfather, you have a secondary mission."
"Miss Summers?"
"You have never said my father's name."
Liang nodded. "I am to kill him."
"I thought so. You would be surprised at how well he can defend himself, but he won't need to. I have arranged for someone to take you to Togo. I'm sure that someone of your talents can find your way home from there."
“But—”
Callie grew cold and dark. "You have saved my life, and now I have saved yours. If you return, all bets are off."
Liang nodded. "I see. So this is good-bye?"
"Yes. Good-bye."
"And that's my cue," said Johnny Rocket as he zipped into the room. "You don't want to struggle," he told Liang. "At my speed, you'll get hurt if you hit the ground."
And they were gone. She allowed herself tears, then, and went to sleep.
An hour later, Johnny Rocket re-entered the Rookery. "Done. Hey—happy birthday. I picked you up a card."
"Thanks, Johnny. You'd be perfect, if you weren't gay."
"I like to think I'm perfect because I'm gay."
"You have any problems off-planet?"
He shrugged. "The usual. You have any problems while we were gone?"
She looked out the window. "The usual," she said. "But I'm older and wiser now."

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Update

For them following along at home, we have had the funeral, and I've started going back to work. It turns out that my sister and I are co-executors on this, but nothing much more happens until the lawyer gets back from his vacation, about the middle of August. Then we have to do bank accounts and investments and stuff, but they don't move until we have the original will (and possibly probate). I haven't actually looked up whether probate happens for all wills but is a rubber-stamp if there are no objections, or if it's special.

Player Types Revisited

Wayyyy back when, Aaron Allston formulated a list of player types in Hero Games' Strike Force and it's been reproduced and copied ever since. I thought I'd take a look at the list and maybe ring some changes on it.

The list: Reproduced here with Mr. Allston's terms but my descriptions, so we're not committing accidental copyright infringement.

Also, I'm using male pronouns here, because I'm old and that's my habit. I'll try to change them before I post this to a gender-neutral "they/them" but please forgive me if I miss one. Point it out and I'll change it.

TypeDescriptionGM Should
BuilderWants to have an effect on the worldLet them change the world
BuddyHere because friends are hereDraw them into roleplaying, or ignore them, depending on circumstances and your needs
Combat MonsterOptimizes character for combat and wants to hit thingsHave something to fight every session
CopierWants a character just like certain other popular character or just like the character they play in every other game. "Yeah, a boxer, but a stealthy sneaky one who lurks in the shadows and throws knives."Understand the player's goals and try to meet those; also, let them know in advance if their version will have restrictions.
Genre FiendKnows everything about the genre you're playing, and will correct you.Find out what the player's expectations are and try to meet them.
Mad SlasherHere to blow off steam from a long week at workEither have a group of mad slashers or get rid of the player.
Mad ThinkerWants a clever solution to everythingHave a puzzle of some kind every session, even if the combat isn't one
PlumberWants to plumb the character, right down to third-grade teacher's name and response to the Trolley Problem.Provide different kinds of situations and problems to illuminate different parts of the character.
Pro From DoverThe best at what they do. And nobody else better be as good or better.Let them shine once in a while, and don't step on their toes
RomanticHas relationships. Not just of the heart, but rivalries, enmities, friendships, frenemies, and so on.Provide NPCs for all those kinds of relationships.
Rules RapistExploit every edge condition and loophole in the rulesFigure out what the player really wants or get rid of them.
ShowoffTake the spotlight and keep the spotlightSurvive this phase or get rid of the player
TragedianTragic things happen, and always to this character. Not all at once, of course, but spaced out.Give the character heartbreak, betrayal, loss, and more.

One of the things that stands out to me is that there are certain player types where the advice is basically, "Get rid of the player." I don't fully agree (in my experience, the actions are often a response to other problems that have nothing to do with the game, and while they might damage your game right now, the player often deserves a later chance). Still, there is a tremendous reserve of "We've been excluded, so we have to include everybody" in the gaming communities I've been in, and I've committed that sin myself, so I understand it. Still: it means that the types Mad Slasher, Rules Rapist, and Showoff are there so you can recognize them and get rid of them. The Buddy isn't actively damaging to your campaign.

I suppose that's useful advice, but you can't do much else with it.

The other advice really boils down to, "Find out what each player wants and give it to them if you can." Sometime that's easy (the Combat Monster).

I think the biggest jewel here is: Not everyone wants the same thing.

The general set of game mastering suggestions you can draw from it:
  • Find out what each player wants.
    • Make a list; we don't all want the same thing every time.
  • Let them know what the limits are on providing it (say, the Copier's demand for a certain character type).
  • Let each character be unique. Give them the spotlight in the way that each person likes: Let the Pro from Dover be the best at what he does, let the Tragedian wallow in angst, get the Romantic tangled in heartstrings, give the Plumber a visit from that obscure person in the backstory.

Know whether your game group's equivalent to disadvantages are a quick point grab (the three different things you could do in Hero that amounted to "Hates criminals") or a plea for stories of that kind. I have been guilty of both; I remember that early in my Champions career I had a Hunted that was, well, pointless, and I wasn't really interested when he did show up. On the other hand, after a gaming drought, I carefully crafted every aspect of my character to provide story activities. (Hint: If you're going to do this, give the list of possible story activities to your GM; as a GM, I find it awful when I get a character who has obviously been designed with care and I have no idea what to do with those qualities, aspects, or disadvantages.) (Second hint: We're older now; more than a page of backstory is probably too much. The way I feel today, three-quarters of a page and six story seed bullet points is probably enough.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Five Campaign Premises

Five Slightly Different Superhero Campaigns

Bored with a four-colour campaign? Start with one of these ideas, guaranteed to be...well, actually, there's no guarantee.

None of these are unique, but they are seen less often.

  1. We know we're in the Matrix All the superheroics take place in a virtual reality: the Pod...which might as well be real. That's where people earn their money and their rep. The players have super-powers in the setting; not everyone does. But something happens, and players have to investigate both in the Pod and outside it (as sort of "secret identity" stuff).
  2. I'll catch that crook, right after a word from this sponsor Why do people do anything? For money. And corporations pay superfolk to be their representatives. Maybe there's an opening because Captain Cuddle was found with an underage leather-clad sub and a whip in his hand; maybe it's just competition between two insurance companies. Or maybe for some reason nobody wants Nerdgasm as their representative, so Nerdgasm has to struggle on its own with other misfits.
  3. We're trying to go wrong After five years of trying to be a group of heroes, the Wonder Four have decided that crime could pay. But if you've been beating up the bad guys for half a decade, you might have trouble convincing them that your change of heart is legit. And maybe it's not...
  4. Sharper than a serpent's tooth You're all mutants sharing the (low-rent) apartment. It doesn't help that some of you are good and some are bad, but at the end of the month, you have to have the rent money...and can you really arrest your cousin? How will you explain that to Dad and to Aunt Jennifer?
  5. Smalltown Trouble It's tough being a country kid with city powers, even in a tourist beach town. Thank goodness you have a couple of friends who want to be heroes...much more than you do. Between dealing with the Rudnoski brothers, gym class, and prom, there's also the fact that you think you recognize the guy who just moved into the McIlvray's rented cottage. That chin, that voice: he might be Dr. Deprivation, planning his next big crime.

  6. Friday, July 27, 2018

    Fiction Friday: Who Wants You? (OIA #7)

    Who Wants You?

    In the recreation room of the YWCA, Lamb Hutton asked, "Who wants to play Parcheesi?">
    Trisha said, "Uh, no." She was the girl nearest Hutton's age. "I have a date."
    "So does everyone. Except me," said Hutton.
    "Even Katrina?" Katrina had only one eye and one tooth. Hutton nodded. "Damn. You have got to find a boyfriend. Or girlfriend."
    "I like boys! You know, a man even wanted to marry me."
    Trisha looked at her. "And what'd you do?"
    "Ran away." Hutton shrugged sadly. "That's why I'm here."
    They saw Katrina cruise through, her moles clean and wet-shiny. "What about guys at your work?" asked Trisha.
    "I— I don't know."
    "I have to go or I'll miss my bus." She kissed Hutton on the cheek and scurried out. "Think about it. You could ask them out. It's the modern age."
    Hutton sighed, put away the game board and started dealing out solitaire.
    * * *
    "We can't wait for LaCroix any longer. Something must have detained him." Seth Markur looked at the others around him: Toomey, Hutton, and Cabot. "Cabot, because you're such a never-mind, you go first."
    Cabot looked at him and then sighed. "All right. My propane barbecue exploded. I was lighting it on my balcony and boom. Gas backed up."
    "You could have died!" Hutton said.
    "I dove for cover. Besides, my gift cut in so the fireball went around me." Lamb smiled at him.
    "Aye," Toomey said darkly. He looked around. "I was in a restaurant havin' a bottle of a nice Merlot, rich and full-bodied, when the waitress offered me a glass of water to cleanse the palate. I told her I stay away from water, but she insisted. The water kept flowing from the glass like a river, and I had to throw it against the wall to save myself. The glass broke."
    "You're all right now, though?" asked Hutton.
    "Aye, I am."
    Markur said, "Mine is a bit different. During that heat wave, I bought a fan—haggled the saleswoman down for a decent deal because the box was clumsily resealed, so it had obviously been sold and returned. Turned it on and it ran the wrong way: nearly sucked the air from my lungs before I got it off."
    Cabot said, "And Hutton?"
    She shrugged. "Nothing."
    "The pattern," said Markur, "is clear. Fire, water, and air. Either you or LaCroix are facing a threat from earth of some kind."
    "Oh, for—" said Cabot. "How did you know, Markur? Toomey has the excuse of being a drunk and a member of faery, so he has an excuse—"
    "I am not a drunk—"
    "But if the air was being sucked out of your lungs, how did you know?"
    Markur said reluctantly, "I was told."
    "By who? Your landlady."
    "No. My— My sword."
    Cabot swore. "Look. My barbecue was old. It was the first time I had used it since moving to Freedom City. Markur, you say you spent the last six hundred years in Hell, so you got the directions on the fan wrong. And Toomey, you were probably drunk. I don't see a threat here."
    "I'm a fae! I know magic, and the glass was—"
    LaCroix entered, muttering imprecations.
    "You're late," said Cabot.
    "Had to take a cab."
    "Car not working?" Markur said.
    "Captain Thunder fighting a giant golem by my house. Golem stepped on it and nearly killed me. Car's totaled."
    Markur looked at Cabot. Cabot looked at LaCroix, then at Markur. "I'll consider the theory." He stood up. "If you'll excuse me, I have real work to do." He left the board room.
    Markur looked at those remaining. "The pattern is clear enough. Meant to eliminate everyone but Lamb."
    "Would Lamb be protected or the real target, then?" asked Toomey.
    "I don't know," said Markur. "But knowing more about her can't hurt. What about this group that kicked you out?"
    "Because I was a heretic?" asked Lamb. "I wasn't really. I just didn't want to marry the pastor."
    "And why?"
    "He takes several wives. I'm not...I'm not pretty, like Purity is, or good at housework, like Charity is. I think it's because I was blessed by God and the prophet with powers."
    "Not everyone can do what you do?"
    "It's quite rare, really. Me, Faith, and Cotton are the only three alive right now."
    "And is he married to the other two?"
    Hutton nodded. "But it's not required."
    Toomey said, "Right. Sure it isn't. What's this pastor's name?"
    "The Right Reverend Hickory Wright."
    Markur made a face.
    "But why would they want you back after kicking you out?" Toomey asked.
    "Children," LaCroix suggested. "Did the other women have children?"
    "Faith is barren, poor dear," said Hutton. LaCroix nodded sagely. "But Cotton had four children by the time I left, and she had only just turned thirty."
    LaCroix frowned. "Then I have nothing. Sorry."
    * * *
    LaCroix cleared his throat. Cabot purposely didn't look up as LaCroix cleared his throat again, and then finally said, "Cabot?"
    "If it's about Markur's supposed death threats—"
    "It isn't. Cabot..." LaCroix closed his eyes. Grandfather, give me strength, he asked.
    You can do it, came the voice from his fetch stick.
    LaCroix said, "Cabot, can you give me a drive to work until I have a new car?"
    "Maybe. Where are you?"
    "North side. Almost by Lantern Hill."
    "Being a professor must pay well. I'm way south, nearly at Lincoln." Cabot shook his head. "Isn't there a subway stop near you? The monorail stops near here."
    "That's not an issue. I can't—my insurance opts out of supervillain attacks, and I can't afford to come here by cab every day until I have a new car."
    "Like I said, take the subway. It's kind of nice to have public transport—Las Vegas didn't."
    "I can't. There are...there are women on the subway." Cabot just looked at him. "Some of them will be menstruating." Cabot kept looking at him. "You can't control who you touch!"
    "I can't afford the time or gas. My salary isn't even as generous as yours—you still have your sabbatical pay. I don't even have that." He smiled at LaCroix. "It's not that bad. I was married, and I touched a menstruating woman. Frequently. Or keep them afraid of you. You'll get by." He turned back to his work.
    LaCroix stood there for a moment. He doesn't understand, Grandfather.
    Not everyone does, grandson.
    * * *
    That evening, Toomey was wandering through a wine store, randomly improving wines: taking the bottle, holding it, then putting it back.
    "Hi," said a woman. "You look like you know wines." She had an odd accent, like Lamb's. Of course, Toomey thought, everyone has an accent here. And they looked nothing alike, besides age, height, and sex.
    "I do," said Toomey.
    "I'm looking for a good wine and someone to share it with. Someone to teach me about wines."
    Toomey decided to cut off that line of thought. "I've been recently married...I want nothing physical, if you please, though I appreciate the thought."
    "No," said the woman, and she seemed shocked by the idea. "Nothing like that."
    "Ah," he said. "Tasting I can do."
    "I have some time right now—"
    Toomey thought about it. There was no one back at the office but the brownie, and he was a poor drinking partner. It was going to be a long night. "I'd be glad to."
    * * *
    When Cabot came in, Daya asked him, "Have you seen Toomey today?"
    Cabot shook his head as he looked through the mail.
    "He's usually in before I am. He's not here."
    But no one had seen him.
    In the boardroom, Markur said, "He's been killed or kidnapped."
    "It is concerning he hasn't shown up," admitted Cabot.
    "We should go in pairs," said Markur. "The foe is obviously powerful and skilled in elemental magics."
    Cabot said, "I don't even admit there is a foe, let alone powerful and skilled et cetera. Toomey's probably sleeping off a drunk."
    "He's a clurichaun. Drinking is an occupational hazard," said Hutton.
    LaCroix came in. "I hope you're satisfied," he snarled at Cabot.
    "What did I do?"
    "You suggested I go on the subway. Well, today I tried it. And a menstruating woman brushed against me. I'm powerless! Powerless!"
    "Oh, dear," said Hutton.
    "Did you try being fearsome?" asked Markur.
    "I— no," said LaCroix. "It was crowded. But still." He spat on the floor at Cabot's feet.
    "And did you tell me you'd be powerless if a menstruating woman touched you?" Cabot asked.
    "Of course. I—" LaCroix thought about it. "No. You were gone at that point. But would you have believed me if I had?"
    Ignoring Cabot, Markur asked, "Is it permanent? Because Toomey's missing."
    "No. No, it's a week of a special diet and meditation. A week without my grandfather to intercede with the spirits on my behalf. I'm worse than the lowest houngan right now. Because of him."
    "Hey—!"
    Markur held up a hand. "We have to work together right now, regardless of our feelings."
    Cabot said sourly, "I'm going to my desk."
    "Go ahead, power-killer."
    Hutton looked back and forth and finally said, "I'm going to stay here and help find Toomey."
    "Go ahead," said Cabot as he left.
    How dare they? Did they realize how much he had been carrying them on the investigative side of the business? The name of the company was Occult Investigations, not Occult Incantations.
    He couldn't work. He would take a walk.
    Largely, he thought, it was because they were magical and he wasn't. The doctor at the hospital had said his gift was psionics, and told him it wasn't magic. Not reliable enough to be a superpower, not rare enough to be ignored, he had been saddled with it. And this job had looked like a clean break, a chance to start fresh.
    Maybe somewhere else in Freedom City— He sighed. And then what?
    He was near a wine store. He thought, It's near the office, Toomey protected wines when he wasn't drinking them. Maybe they saw him.
    And they had. Cabot called Talithe Daya with the license plate of the cab, and headed back for his car.
    A woman stopped him just before he got back to the office. She had a map in one hand and her other hand in her large purse. Cell phone, probably, he thought. "Excuse me, sir?" she said. "I need directions."
    He paused. "Where do you need to go?"
    "Heaven," the woman said, just before she knocked him unconscious.
    * * *
    Markur waited motionlessly for Cabot to come back. It was a skill he had developed waiting for campaigns to start: never let the men see you worry or fidget.
    But Hutton wasn't one of his men. "I can't stand waiting." Markur didn't say anything. "I'm going to go look for him," she said.
    Markur thought about the possibility that Hutton herself was doing this, that she had snapped—and then realized that she controlled only earth, not the other elements, so she was unlikely to have made Cabot's barbecue explode, and couldn't have created the magical drinking glass and the vampiric fan. No: the threat was someone else. "No," he said. "Here is safer."
    "I can't sit here and do nothing!."
    "Waiting is something."
    "It's not enough."
    "You will not leave. The pattern is clear: the adversary is eliminating people one by one so that you are unprotected. I think that people are unhurt, because then they can be used as levers to move you."
    She stopped. "As long as I stay."
    "Until you are threatened directly, this is the safest place for you and for them."
    "What about you?"
    "LaCroix and I are going to stay here and protect you. You're clearly the target."
    "Thanks. I guess. You're sure they're okay?"
    "I think they are, up to the point that he threatens them."
    "You think it's a man?" she asked.
    Markur shrugged. "Women do so many things here and now that I can't be sure. Usually I like it, but it does take some of the certainty from life."
    "So what do we do?"
    "We wait." He looked at the clock. "And, if Cabot doesn't answer his cell phone soon, we prepare a trap."
    * * *
    "I feel like I should be helping." Hutton sat on a chair on the table of the board room. The room looked like a jungle: all of the potted plants had been moved there.
    "You're the goal," Markur said. "Putting you up front just makes you more of a target. Staying here with that pan of milk between your feet does just what we need." He looked out the window. "How old were you when your magic manifested?"
    Hutton said, "Twelve, maybe thirteen."
    Markur nodded as he threaded around the potted plants to look out the other window. "How old would Cotton's children be now?"
    She frowned in thought. "The oldest would be fourteen, then twelve and two eleven, one January, one December."
    "In, uh, puberty yet?"
    "Oh, yes. Cotton was an early developer."
    "What if they don't have magic?"
    "Cotton could have more children."
    "True," said Markur. "If she's alive." Hutton looked at him. "Farming's dangerous. Not as dangerous as mercenary work, but dangerous." The Newton's cradle that signaled magic started clacking. "Showtime."
    "'Showtime'? That doesn't even sound like you."
    "I used to say, 'To their deaths' but I haven't killed anyone since I came out of Hell." He smiled at Hutton. Then he slipped out the door of the board room to make the final arrangements.
    LaCroix came in at the same time. He said, "No luck finding the brownie," to Markur. "Hey, child." He looked sweaty. "I called the police. They can't do anything until there's an altercation. I set up my cell phone to call 911 at the press of a button. If we need them, that'll get the police here. How are you doing?"
    She shrugged.
    "I'm going to prepare a protective vevre around you. The ritual's kind of long so I don't know if I'll get done, but I'll try." He took a bag of corn meal from his pocket and started to pour.
    * * *
    Markur found Daya slumped over her desk, a phone cord wrapped around her neck. He checked her breathing—still alive. He unwrapped the phone cord and left her; better that she didn't get involved in this. Back to the board room, he thought, because a three on one fight is just sensible. He put the pen-knife in his hand, ready to shake it into a sword.
    The demon of the knife fell silent. Akazizel? asked Markur and got no answer. A dark-haired woman with a big shoulder bag walked in. "Oh," she said. "I was looking for the detective agency."
    Markur edged out from behind Daya's desk. "We're busy right now. Can you come back later?" He thought she might have been in her thirties. Slim, fit, in slacks and a loose top, big sunglasses, memorable hat.
    "Sure," she said, and opened her big bag. "I'll just give you my card—" She pulled out a saber, shook off the sheath.
    Markur said, "Now the pretense is over. I'm relieved." He flicked his wrist so his pen-knife would grow into a sword.
    Nothing happened.
    The woman said, "Magic doesn't work around me." She lunged with the saber.
    Markur batted the thrust away with the knife; metal scraped against metal. He managed barely to deflect the next cut while backing up. Then the door was against his back and he couldn't back up any more. She said, "Nothing personal. You'll get better after I leave. I've watched you that long to know about the healing." She lunged once more: the saber bit deeply into Markur's side. Adrenaline kept the pain from him, but he knew it would hurt later.
    He got the door open, fell backwards, and tried to shut it on her. He failed, scuttled towards the board room. If he had a weapon with a decent length, the hallway was a good spot to fight: it was too narrow for a sideways slash. He shouted, "She's here!" then rolled into the bathroom.
    The plunger! He grabbed it and stood—and the woman entered.
    She shrugged and stood en garde. He knew about her; he had to be silenced.
    Markur nodded and lifted the plunger. It was all he had. He held it ready.
    The saber bit into the handle of the plunger, and he corkscrewed it around, trying to disarm her—but the round rubber head was too broad for him to flick the sword away. She slashed again, sending chips of wood flying, and then again. Markur pulled to disarm her.
    The head of the plunger fell off.
    He grinned. With one swift movement he got under her arm and flicked her wrist so the saber fell free. She was not as good as he was, for all that he was out of practice. He thrust once with the stick, knocking the air out of her, then stepped forward and thrust again. She was pinned against the door to the bathroom. She whacked at the stick with her hand.
    Which is when the stick broke.
    Markur swore and leaned in close, intending to keep pressuring her.
    Markur felt the burning pain before he saw the darkness stroll in at the edge of his vision. He fell to the ground. "Main gauche," she said. "But you're good. And your best bet is for me to leave the building so you can heal." She nudged him with her toe. He didn't move. "Which I will. As soon as I am done.
    * * *
    LaCroix finished the chant.
    Hutton waited until there was silence. They had heard nothing from outside after Markur's yell. "LaCroix," she said. "Gideon. Why don't men like me?"
    "They like you."
    "I mean like me. Toomey's got that woman in Faery, I get that, and Markur is dating Melody, but Cabot stays away from me and you stay away from me too."
    "Ah," LaCroix said. "This isn't really the time—"
    "We might die soon."
    He watched the door while talking to her. "As long as you're ready to throw the potted plants." She nodded. "You're young. And most of us have an aversion to dating young women." Leaves poked over his shoulder. He brushed them away.
    "That one girl you dated was young."
    "She was an immortal cultist who looked young. There's a difference." He adjusted the branches on the plants to they wouldn't touch his head.
    Hutton frowned. "How young is young?"
    "Twenty-one at least. The kids say you can only date some half your age plus seven." Hutton closed her eyes to keep the tears in. LaCroix went on. "That's twenty-five for me," he said gently.
    A leaf brushed against his mouth, and stayed there. He pulled on it, and his eyes got wide. He tried yelling but his cry was muffled by the plant.
    LaCroix started to walk to her and couldn't without dragging the plant: it was restraining him. He couldn't get his cell phone. He forced himself to be calm, found the plant's pot, and carried it over to Hutton, stepping over the cornmeal patterns on the carpet. "Mmmmmm!" he said to Hutton while pulling at the leaves—for more had grabbed his face.
    She opened her eyes and gasped. She clawed at the leaves, then tried throwing the plant against the far wall—but the stems of the leaves broke as the pot flew, so LaCroix was still covered. LaCroix sank to the floor, his hands trying to get his phone out—and she followed him, pulling at the leaves. Soon LaCroix lay there, limp and unconscious. The leaves fell off.
    Hutton did not notice that LaCroix's heel had erased a part of the protective pattern.
    She tried to float the earth in the pot nearest the door, and she couldn't—and then she heard a voice from outside. "I have a dying man here, Lamb. He'll get better if I leave, so save him. Come with me."
    She knew that voice, and she knew why she couldn't control the dirt near the door. "Where do you want me to go, Faith?"
    "Home, Lamb. It's time to get married. There was a fire, and Cotton and her children are in the arms of the Lord."
    Lamb reached into LaCroix's pockets and found his cell phone. She opened it—and immediately wondered which button to push.
    "I left because I didn't want to marry him," she called. She picked a button. The screen lit up but didn't place a call.
    Faith pushed open the door, saber ready. She saw LaCroix lying there. "Huh. Having that girl touch him on the bus really did do something to him."
    "You did that!"
    She nodded, but the tip of the saber did not waver. "Guilty. Thy sins, unlike mine, are forgiven," she said formally. "Come thee with me."
    "No." Hutton shook her head.
    "Then he dies," Faith said. She stepped closer.
    "This is a cell phone, Faith. Have you seen one yet?"
    Faith nodded. "I've been watching for some time. You talk to it." She took another step forward.
    "Well, when I press this button, this will call the police, and they will come. This is not magic, Faith. You can't stop it. They'll save his life and they'll put you in jail."
    "You're bluffing."
    "Not a lot," said Hutton.
    Faith took another step. "I don't know what that means, but if you could summon them, you would have done so."
    Hutton pressed another button while hoping for the right one. "I don't want to go back, Faith. I'd rather have my heart broken by a man I chose than have children by a man I rejected."
    "My job isn't about what you want, Lamb. It's about our immortal souls."
    "No," said Lamb. "It's about your immortal soul. I'm only a means to an end. I'm...I'm a breeding cow for him and a token of redemption for you. I'd rather die." She threw up the window and dove outside.
    * * *
    When Faith came down the stairs and outside, Hutton was leaning against a tree to favor her swelling ankle.
    "You're just delaying the inevitable, you know," said Faith.
    "So are you, Faith." Hutton sent a chunk of earth flying at her. It hit her on the leg. "Physics, Faith. After I throw them, they keep moving and it's not magic at all." Another chunk of dirt shattered against Faith's head. Faith marched ahead.
    Hutton said, "See, I'm outside your range now, but you're not outside mine." Earth erupted all around Faith and met three dozen feet above her head, forming a giant of soil over Faith.
    "What are you going to do, have me march around it? My power will cancel your power once I get close."
    "I know." Faith marched forward, and when she came closer, clods of earth started to fall.
    Hundreds of pounds of soil fell on Faith's head before she could dodge. It buried her so that only her head was left exposed.
    "That was the idea." Hutton left to check her friends.
    * * *
    "How'd you find us?" Cabot rubbed his wrists where the duct tape had been. The warehouse was empty except for them: Toomey was out in the cab.
    "Faith left a note. She didn't want to kill anyone but me, and me only if necessary. Bad for her immortal soul."
    "But she's gone now?"
    Hutton nodded. "She dug her way out and escaped, and I was more concerned about finding you. You folk, I mean." She smiled, and dimples appeared.
    "Well... Thank you." He smiled too. "It's always instructional to be locked up with Toomey."
    There was a silence. Then Hutton blurted, "I was wondering if you want to go on a date on Saturday?"
    Cabot said, "I don't normally date co-workers."
    "Oh." Hutton looked away and started to turn.
    "But you rescued me. What time would you like to pick me up?"

    Sunday, July 22, 2018

    I'm absent

    My father died early this morning so please forgive my absence. We have things to do.

    Friday, July 20, 2018

    Fiction Friday: The Faery Tale (OIA #6)

    FAERY TALE

    Jedediah Cabot stood in the aisle of the office at the Occult Investigations Agency, his fists on his hips, accusing both LaCroix and Markur. "Okay, who has them?"
    "Who has what?" asked Gideon LaCroix. He sipped his tea.
    "I had DVDs of some Bogart movies, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. I was going to have Susan over to watch them."
    Markur and LaCroix laughed. "Yeah. Right. Waaaaatch them," said Seth Markur.
    "Listen, just because you're both...earthy...doesn't mean I'm going to—to—leap on Susan."
    Lamb Hutton came over. "Susan is the woman in the city hall?"
    "Yes," said Cabot. "We were going to watch movies." He whirled on the other two men. "And that's all! At least I've certainly never slept with an immortal companion of a demon or...or a history grad student."
    "Don't knock it until you've tried it," said Markur, and both men laughed again.
    "I think it's good that you weren't going to force yourself on Susan," said Hutton.
    Cabot turned back to her. "It wouldn't be force! I mean, I just felt that I should...you know...move on."
    "Of course," said Lamb Hutton. She left the men, one fuming and two snickering, and returned to her desk. Once there, her hand strayed to the hiding spot for the DVDs.
    They were gone.
    * * *
    I deal in things hidden, things occult. They call me Toomey. I'm a private eye.
    He breezed into the office, ten pounds of sex appeal in a five pound sack, almost literally. He was my height, maybe a little smaller. If the tall ones could have seen him, Lamb and Talithe would have swooned, the men would have wanted to be his friend. He has that effect on people.
    He can't help it; it's the way he was made.
    I kicked a chair over to him and said, "Rest your wings a while and talk." He was no friend of mine. In fact, he was the reason I was here.
    So it had to be bad if he had come to me. Or he didn't think I cared. We fey are funny that way; we can hold grudges for the longest time, but sometimes we're surprised that anyone was offended.
    He perched on the edge of the chair. It was too large for him, but so was everything. I'm used to that—back in Faery things were sized differently, but here they're made for the Tall Ones. His wings brushed the back of the chair. His rapier knocked against the wood.
    "Thank you," he said. "My bride has gone missing."
    I raised an eyebrow. "Gloriana?"
    He ignored my tone. A good thing; his rapier wasn't just for show. "You've been away. My beloved Mab."
    "Dumped Gloriana?"
    "Our time was up." Faery voluntary marriages last 7 years, 49 years, or 343 years. Though I had been in the mortal world only three hundred years, time in world of Man doesn't correspond to the world of Faery.
    "So you had Queen Mab?"
    "We were to be married."
    "Tell me about it."
    "Believe not the calumny that she is the midwife, for she is—"
    "I meant about the disappearance." After he had Gloriana banish me here, I wasn't going to cut him slack.
    "It was our wedding day. We were going to jump the sword at noon, and we had a large tree available. I went to collect her shortly before the jump, and something that looked like a black-haired man grabbed her and disappeared into a mirror."
    "Disappeared?"
    "There was a doctor in attendance; he said it was the Elegant Enchantment." Which led here: the world of Man. Gloriana had used the Winding Coil to send me, and a long trip it had been.
    "So you want me..."
    "To find her. I must be married, I simply must be." Sculpted that way before being given the Breath of Life, probably of petals and earth. "Otherwise I shall have to marry Gloriana again."
    That didn't sound awful to me, but then, I had been in love with her.
    "I'll take the job," I said. "Describe the man."
    * * *
    Lamb Hutton looked at the bare floor under the desk. No DVDs. Then she looked at the black boots that had appeared beside her, attached to work pants, and the tattered hems of several skirts that covered them.
    A homeless woman gazed down, her hair wild and brown. "Pull out five items," she said to Hutton and thrust forward a grimy velvet Crown Royal bag. Hutton pulled out a blue cat's-eye marble, a ball of tinfoil, a Lincoln penny, a brown marble, and a small photograph torn from a magazine, of a naked woman with enormous breasts. The woman placed the items in a cross on the receptionist's desk. "Hmm. You'll do. The heir of the Fairies has been kidnapped. You need to recover the Tiara of Tir Na Nog. It will be part of the ransom." She swept the items back into the bag. "I'd rather you were Toomey."
    Hutton opened her mouth to respond as the hall doorknob clicked. Hutton turned—and found she was alone with Talithe, who had been collating.
    "Thanks for watching— What is that smell?" Talithe picked up a label from the desk. "Who do you know on Miller Drive?"
    "I'll take that," said Hutton. "Where's Toomey?"
    ***
    I figured the man to talk to was the one who couldn't stop stealing brides—Koschei the Undying. I didn't know where he was, but I knew somebody who had once employed him: Baba Yaga.
    Since she got rid of the hut with the chicken legs, she's been living in a condo by the shore. Secure access isn't a problem; all I had to do was find a nearby winecellar—and sneak out of that condo. Soon I knocked on her door.
    A meek young woman let me in. I didn't recognize her. I cooled my heels in the living room.
    When Baba Yaga came in, I almost didn't recognize her. Nose bob, dye job, and breast implants. She was still old, but didn't look much like she had before.
    "How do I know it's you?" I asked.
    She tapped a fingernail against one smooth white tooth. "Ceramic coating, but still iron underneath." She fetched a fridge magnet in the shape of a pineapple from the kitchen. When she put it on her tooth, it hung. She plucked it off. "None of us are what we appear to be, dearie." She looked me over. "Not even you. Leprechaun?"
    "Clurichaun," I said. "Not one of the cobbling bastards."
    She sank into a chair. "What can I do for you? A clurichaun isn't my usual clientele."
    "Just a moment. Maiden or slave?" I asked, and jerked my thumb to the girl.
    "Personal assistant," said the witch. "Maiden's having fun in Florida this time of year, and you can't eat slaves the way you used to."
    "Times have changed," I agreed. "I'm looking for Koschei the Undying."
    "He prefers Faery," said Baba Yaga.
    "Where did he hang out when he was in this realm?"
    "He had a place in Little Russia." She wrote down the address and gave it to me. "Drink? I have a Reisling you might like."
    I should have said no; I was on the job. But instead I said, "Well, if it's already open..."
    * * *
    Lamb Hutton looked at the bar, which looked seedy, even to her. "The Russian Beer Room" matched the address she had. The address had no phone number, no name. If she had known the name, she could have done this by phone. Cabot could probably figure out the phone number just from the address.
    Or he would just ask Susan's help.
    She stalked into the bar.
    "Can I help, miss?" The bartender continued wiping the bar; his voice mingled Russian and British accents. Beside Hutton and the bartender, four men watched a soccer game on a television at the back of the bar.
    "I'm looking for someone. I'm a detective."
    "Could I see some identification?" She handed over her passport. "It says here you're sixteen."
    "Yes."
    "Sixteen year olds aren't allowed in bars."
    "But I've been in bars before."
    "We get searched on a regular basis," he explained. "So we try not to break the rules. You'll have to leave. It's the law."
    "Oh," said Hutton. She turned and left, then took out her cell phone.
    "Russian Beer Room," said the bartender into the bar phone.
    "Hi," said Hutton from outside the big window. She waved to him.
    The bartender sighed. "Who are you looking for?"
    "I don't know his name. He kidnaped the Heir of Faery."
    "The Aero Aerie?"
    "Heir of Faery."
    "I'll check." The bartender hung up.
    Hutton called back. Through the window she could see the bartender ignoring the phone.
    She paced. Finally a man left the bar. She stepped in front of him. "I need your help."
    "No speak English," said the man.
    "Sure you do."
    "No, I don't."
    Defeated, she let him go, and called the office. Dr. LaCroix and Markur arrived half hour later.
    "Why not go in?" asked Markur.
    "I'm not old enough."
    LaCroix nodded. "Being twenty in a twenty-one state is a bitch."
    "No, I'm sixteen."
    "Really? You look—"
    "Does Cabot know?" asked Markur.
    "No," said Hutton. Markur snickered nastily. "What is this age thing? I can plough a field. I'm good with children. Someone—he was ready to marry me. Why should it matter that I'm sixteen?"
    "It's complicated," said LaCroix. "To the point. Seth?" He walked into the bar.
    Hutton watched their progress. Three men approached them. Markur gestured with his penknife, which became a sword. The men ran to the back of the room. Markur and LaCroix talked briefly to the bartender, then LaCroix raised his walking stick.
    Her cell phone rang.
    "Bozhemoi. Make it stop," whimpered the bartender.
    "Do you know the man I want?"
    "Da. I think so. Regular customer. He has a room over the bar. I know him as Grigor."
    "When's the last time he was in?"
    "I don't know! I haven't seen him in a week."
    Markur took the phone from him. "We're looking upstairs."
    "Is that legal?"
    "Who cares?" said Markur. They left the bartender, still whimpering. At the doorway to the stairwell, LaCroix raised his stick again.
    * * *
    When I awoke, I was hanging upside down in the bathroom, hung from a handrail over the tub. Baba Yaga came in. "I haven't had clurichaun in a long, long time—and there's no messy paperwork because you're a denizen of Faery."
    "Your personal assistant..." I croaked. Funny how hanging upside down does things to your voice.
    "...wants to be a serial killer. I said she could stay to learn at the cost of being my personal assistant." She turned and said, "Beata!"
    Beata sashayed in. She had dropped the meekness. "Yes, boss?" The way Beata said it made me wonder when she was going to be shoved into an oven.
    "I have a recipe in the other house. In the meanwhile, get him ready." She left. Beata produced a pair of kitchen shears and started cutting off my clothes. I swore then, because I have trouble finding clothes my size that aren't kid clothes.
    "Quiet." She kept cutting. Presumably she wasn't going to untie me. When she got to my underwear, she said, "Let's find out if a leprechaun is built like a man."
    I was about to retort when I thought better of it. "It's a shame conditions aren't right to give you my pot of gold."
    "Why?" she asked.
    "Well, you didn't catch me. She caught me. If you had caught me..." I shrugged as best as I could, hanging upside down.
    "It's a trick to escape," she said.
    "If you lock the bathroom door, I can't get away from you, and you can catch me. After all, my hands and feet don't work so well after being tied up."
    She thought about it. "A pot of gold?"
    "Enough for independence. All she wants to do is eat me. She can still do that."
    She turned and pushed in the button on the bathroom door.
    She laid me in the tub, then untied all the knots.
    "There."
    "You'll have to untie me all the way. I have to be free before I can be recaptured." I tried to shrug; chains clinked. "Law of Faery."
    Carefully keeping herself between me and the door, she helped me stand up and then unwound the chains. Baba Yaga knows I'm strong, but leprechauns...well, they're not so strong as clurichauns.
    "You're free," Beata said.
    I grabbed her, turned her around. She twisted and stabbed me once with the kitchen shears, but it was only a glancing blow, and I turned her so she couldn't do it again.
    "I'm not a leprechaun. I'm a clurichaun." She had to bend a lot on our way to the kitchen because I was holding her so low. I am still short.
    There wasn't enough wine in the kitchen.
    So I choked her until she fell limp. I wasn't sure I had done it right—she could have been faking—so I left her on the kitchen floor and ran for the hall.
    As I found the elevator, I saw Beata come out of the condo with a butcher knife in her hand. I hustled down the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator there in my undershorts.
    She never found me. We Faery folk can hide in plain sight when we want to—and I wanted to.
    * * *
    The car parked near the bar. Cabot got out, followed by Toomey. Hutton noticed Toomey had changed clothes—though why he wore a Spongebob Squarepants shirt puzzled her.
    "Didn't expect to see you," said Cabot. "Another case?"
    "Tiara of Tir Na Nog."
    Toomey whistled. "We're looking for Queen Mab of Faery. Sounds connected."
    She nodded. "Seth and Gideon are examining a room over the bar."
    "Dear God, they'll burn it down or something," said Cabot. "Demons will show up. Why aren't you with them?"
    She fought not to blush and lost. "I'm not old enough to go into the bar."
    "Being twenty sucks sometimes," he said kindly. "Place like this has to have a back entrance—otherwise the tenants couldn't get in when the bar's closed." He headed down the alley beside the building. Toomey and Hutton followed.
    They found LaCroix and Markur outside a locked door. "Nobody inside," said LaCroix.
    "You knocked?" asked Cabot.
    "No," said LaCroix. "I had someone look."
    "Oh," said Toomey. The little man took the doorknob and turned it. The doorknob stopped, then creaked in his hand. Toomey turned harder, sinews standing out in his neck and arms. "It came off." He held up the doorknob and smiled. "Oops."
    Cabot pulled out a pocketnife and stuck the blade in the hole, then twisted. "Looks open to me."
    Markur looked at him. "You do have redeeming qualities."
    Cabot shooed them all in. The small apartment stank of old borscht and cabbage. An unmade king-size bed, a big birdcage, and a floor-length mirror dominated the room. Litter filled every flat surface.
    "How big is this Tiara anyway?" asked Hutton.
    Toomey held his hands apart to show the size.
    "Great," said Cabot. "We're looking for a bracelet."
    "Some of the Fey do have small heads," Toomey agreed.
    "What Tiara?" asked LaCroix. Hutton told him. "It's a real object? I thought it was a metaphor."
    "You know about this thing?" asked Cabot while looking at the empty birdcage.
    "John Dee and Paracelsus both wrote about it, but received wisdom says it's a fanciful name for an alchemical stage."
    "What did it do?" asked Hutton. Cabot called Toomey over.
    "Gave the wielder power over animate things without souls," said LaCroix.
    "Like Fae," added Toomey.
    "Or demons," said Markur.
    "Or assembly-line robots," said Cabot. "I think we're too late. The birdcage would have held Mab. The fact that it's here and empty means he doesn't have her now."
    "Did he act on his own?" asked Markur. "Or was he hired?"
    Cabot said, "Good question. You do have redeeming qualities." Markur stuck his tongue out.
    "She's already gone," Toomey mused. "So he had two birdcages, one for travelling."
    "Shh!" said LaCroix. Footsteps were coming up the hall. They paused outside the door, then a man rushed in and dove for the mirror.
    But Toomey had been waiting, and he spun the mirror so the silvered side faced the wall. The man hit the mirror, the mirror hit the wall, and the man fell down, staggered.
    * * *
    As the only one strong enough, I stuck to Koschei like the label of a winebottle and grabbed his wrists. "Listen, sweetheart," I told him, "you may be Koschei the Undying but I can make you Koschei the Unpainless if you don't cooperate."
    "You took my movies!" said Cabot.
    "Later, sweetheart. Well?" I jerked Koschei's arm up.
    "I'll talk."
    "Do you give your bond to tell us the truth?"
    "Da. I don't know much."
    "Do you further swear not to hurt us?"
    "Yes, and I swear not to hurt or steal those close to you. Enough?"
    "Enough." I let him up. He dusted himself off but the dirt still marked his shirt and pants. "Tell us what happened from your point of view."
    "A man contacted me. He wanted someone in Faery kidnaped on her wedding day. I couldn't resist, and he offered to pay me. So I did it. I just got back from giving the ransom to him."
    "Mab is safe?" I asked. He nodded.
    "We still have to get the ransom back," said Lamb.
    "Who is this guy?"
    "A man. He lives in his mother's basement; I could hear her voice sometimes. His name is Macauley Marlowe."
    "He told you his name?" Cabot seemed incredulous.
    "He used a spell on me later to make me forget, but that spell is meant for demons. I'm not a demon; I still remember."
    I said, "So he's a sorceror."
    "Da."
    He gave me the address they exchanged princesses and ransom. I tossed him the doorknob. "Thanks," I said.
    Cabot stared at me. "After all that, you're leaving him?"
    I said, "It's Koschei the Undying." He still didn't move. "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Koschei's gotta take the brides till he dies. Come on."
    * * *
    The address was the student life building on the FCU campus. "Pretty clever," admitted Cabot. "Someone overhears something, you can explain it away as roleplaying or improv."
    "And the forensics suck, because the rooms get reused," said LaCroix. "But you have to give them your student card to get a room."
    Markur said, "Let me. I've been here before." When Toomey looked at him, he said, "Dates. With Melody."
    "He has no money," explained Cabot. "This place is cheap."
    "I have money," said Markur. "I just spend it. Melody is a student here."
    "Go," said LaCroix. "Or I will. I still have professor privileges here."
    Between Markur and LaCroix they discovered the name on the card, and that it had been borrowed—but the turnkey at the desk knew Marlowe by sight, and he had rented the room. Marlowe failed out of arts some years before but never left the university. Cabot got his address from the administration building—and Marlowe lived nearby.
    * * *
    An elderly lady answered the door, and I saw she was wearing a seeming. I didn't know what she was, or why she was there, but I was ready. Cabot did the talking.
    "Macauley?" asked his mother. "Oh, he's in his room. I'll call him."
    When she left, I whispered to Cabot, "She's not what she appears to be."
    "I know," whispered Cabot. "See how the floor bends under her weight?"
    She hollered down the stairs. "Macauley!"
    * * *
    She returned. "You can go right down." She smiled at Hutton. "All of you."
    They trooped down the stairs, with Cabot and LaCroix ducking to get under a heating vent. They entered a room out of Wonderland: grass grew there, and vines went up the walls, twining around the small windows to the backyard. A bead curtain hung by one wall, and they could see a plateau in the next room—or rather, where the next room would be. A throne stood in the center of the room, and a pear-shaped bearded man squatted on it. He wore a loose purple-and-gold robe over a T-shirt and grimy jeans; a bracelet hung off one wrist. A crown sat askew on his head. His feet were bare.
    Cabot said, "Macauley Marlowe? We've come to ask you some questions about your part in a kidnapping."
    "Koschei talked? How sad." The young man seemed to have his mind elsewhere. He chewed at one of his nails.
    "You don't seem worried," said LaCroix. Cabot and Markur each moved farther away from the group.
    "I know something you don't know."
    "Oh?" asked Hutton.
    "That was a quote. From The Princess Bride. Don't you know anything?"
    "I haven't seen very many movies," mumbled Hutton.
    "You have iocaine powder?" asked Cabot.
    "I have something better. They will be noisy eating you, but I'll get over it." He snapped his fingers. "Destroy them!"
    Around him, things appeared: A wispy woman with a beautiful body and a decayed face; a handsome little man, armed with a sword and dressed like an Elizabethan dandy, except for the wings that grew from his back; a woman, her hair twined with leaves and her body covered in bark; and a short, bestial man with pointed ears and a bow and quiver.
    Markur said, "Fey. Turning your coat inside out won't work with these."
    "It has been too long since I have had sport with mortals," said the hobgoblin. "Robin Goodfellow has missed this." He raised his bow and suddenly Cabot was elfshot. He had been looking at Hutton, and his features softened. He smiled and reached for her.
    The winged man, Oberon, flew across the room, but Markur wore his jacket loose and it took the first stab from the fairy. The ghostly woman screamed, but there was no obvious response. The bark-woman also hit Cabot with an arrow, but the results were slightly bloodier, opening a line across his arm.
    "I don't think I ever realized how lovely you are, Lamb," said Cabot. An arrow whizzed past him.
    Markur parried a thrust from Oberon, clanging metal against metal. His pocketknife had grown to a sword. "Great. Cabot's elfshot."
    The ghostly woman screamed at LaCroix again, and he ran, horrified, up the stairs. Toomey tried to grab him, missed, and ran after him.
    What if Toomey's under the influence of the Tiara? Hutton thought, and groaned. She said, "Prove your love by—uh, by defeating them!" Hutton lifted her arm, chanting, and dirt broke the basement windows and poured into the room, assembling itself into a wall between the two groups.
    Markur had dodged another thrust by the flying man, and pulled out his pocketknife. With a flick of his wrist it was a sword. His first thrust was tentative, just meant to engage.
    "For you!" said Cabot, "I'll get the Tiara." He saw the other side clearly in his mind: The hobgoblin and woman were waiting until the wall fell, and Marlowe looked at them with annoyance. Behind Cabot, the swordplay continued. The winged man dashed forward to a weak spot in Markur's defenses, but Markur parried.
    The rotting woman strode through the wall, ghost-like, and keened at Markur, who grunted. "Banshee," he said, "I'm busy. I have no time to die now." His sword went through her and hit the winged man's blade. My blade is longer, this should be easier, he thought; but the little man is fast. And good.
    Flowers popped out of the earth wall and bloomed within seconds.
    Hutton grimaced and used a clot of the earth to bind the flying man's wings—but he shook it off, rising higher as he flapped faster, then back into the battle. But re-entry is difficult, and Markur pierced him. The blade bit into his torso, and the little man smiled widely. "A touch," he said. He took to the air again. "But I was on the ground, then."
    Cabot concentrated on the metal ring he had seen on Marlowe's wrist, on easing it, and just it, off Marlowe's wrist. He did it, and the Tiara sped through the air across the room—
    —and into the dirt wall Hutton had erected.
    There was madness then, as the hobgoblin, the woman, and Marlowe all grabbed for the Tiara; Cabot whirled it around to prevent them. "A hole! Make a hole," he said.
    The Tiara thumped into the wall and then rolled down and under a bookcase.
    There was a creak on the stairs, and LaCroix reappeared. He looked for the ghostly woman and avoided her. "Marlowe's mother was a redcap;" he announced. "She's upstairs and Toomey's gone nuts. He tried to hit me."
    "He's under the compulsion of the Tiara," Hutton explained.
    With a feint, Markur drew the small man out and got past his defenses—but the small man managed to turn aside at the last moment.
    LaCroix nodded. While looking for a bottle or jar, he noticed that the scratches on Markur's face and hands had gone away. LaCroix spotted a nearly empty two litre Mountain Dew bottle in a laundry room and headed for it.
    The ghostly woman reached out an arm for Cabot, but he saw her in time and dodged her touch. The second shot from the hobgoblin came through the hole and narrowly missed Hutton.
    Pollen puffed out of the flowers—seeing it, Hutton held her breath. Cabot and Markur didn't, and their movements immediately slowed. Markur struggled to keep the winged dandy at bay.
    Hutton looked through the hole and saw the hobgoblin. More dirt came through the window and pummeled him, hard, until he was invisible in the rain of soil. When it stopped, he was unconscious.
    Cabot bent to look through the hole. "I can't see the Tiara. But you smell nice, Lamb."
    Marlowe stood, and when he turned, Hutton saw the Tiara gripped in his fist; he was taking no chances on dropping it. Marlowe said some words, and light flew from his fingertips: the wall vanished.
    The bark-woman sighed, and fired another arrow. She missed.
    In the laundry room, LaCroix had emptied the Mountain Dew bottle (he suspected the contents were not Mountain Dew), and spoke the words of an enchantment over it.
    The winged man and Markur had settled into a clanging impasse. Neither could get through the other's defenses, but both had sacrificed their attacks.
    The spirit-woman reached for Hutton but Cabot pushed her out of the way, avoiding her touch as well.
    Cabot mentally tugged on the Tiara, but couldn't quite pull it from Marlowe's grasp.
    "I'll summon a troll! That will beat you!" Marlowe called, "I summon a troll!" The troll appeared, bent over by the short ceiling. It roared once—
    —and the sunlight from the broken windows hit it. The gray color of stone sped from the sunlight through the entire troll, leaving a troll-shaped statue.
    Markur had moved backward, forward, backward, to one side and another, all as the battle seemed to be turning, but he had been stopped at almost every opportunity. The little man was fighting defensively, hoping to get through Markur's defenses; Markur was fighting defensively, because that small flitting man could be where Markur didn't expect him.
    Hutton looked at Marlowe's hand. He was holding the Tiara as if it were a ring. If she tried hard, she could shoot a column of hardened earth up through the Tiara—a stalagmite, as it were. She did, though it took all of her attention to do so.
    Toomey appeared at the doorway to the basement. "I'm sorry, lass," he said, and knocked her over with a heavy thump. "If ye get hold of the Tiara, don't claim it as ye're own. Do you hear me? Mr. Marlowe wouldna like that." His brogue was thicker than usual.
    LaCroix chanted again, words of power—
    —and the spirit-woman vanished inside the bottle. LaCroix twisted shut the cap. "That's another one," he said.
    Cabot leapt on Toomey. "If you've hurt her—" He grabbed the clurichaun and carried him to the ground, but Toomey shrugged him off.
    "Ah!" said Markur, taking advantage of the distraction to sink his sword into the winged man's rapier shoulder.
    The bark-woman said, "Come here," to LaCroix, and he did, walking slowly toward her.
    "Are you—do you menstruate?" he said.
    Lying on the floor, Hutton pulled the stalagmite to herself, and Marlowe gasped as the Tiara ripped from his hands. "I claim this Tiara as my own," she said, "and I declare the Fey will not fight us any more."
    The Fey stopped and stood still. "Good fighting," said the little man.
    LaCroix was nearest to Marlowe, and punched him. Marlowe had a glass jaw or LaCroix hit him on the button, because Marlowe folded next.
    "Good work, lass," said Toomey. "Oberon," he said, nodding to the little man.
    "Toomey."
    The clurichaun grinned. "That's Clarisant in the bottle, LaCroix, and Eigyr over there you're looking all mooney at."
    "Sorry," she said and closed her hand. LaCroix straightened, as though an enchantment had been lifted.
    "The hobgoblin sleeping in the pile of dirt is Robin Goodfellow," Toomey continued. "There's a redcap named Throttlegush upstairs, too. Good thing no one was really fighting against you."
    Hutton refrained from mentioning that Cabot had been elfshot. "I give the Tiara back to its rightful owner, the Queen of Faery." She handed it to Oberon.
    He took it with his non-sword-holding hand and rubbed his shoulder. "We have to try that again some time," he said to Markur. "And you," he said to Toomey, "didn't get Mab back in time, so I owe you nothing."
    "But we did get the Tiara back, which should be worth something."
    "I grant you each a boon. Toomey, you can return to Faery for some period of time."
    And Toomey was gone.
    * * *
    My name is Toomey, and Gloriana hadn't remarried yet. She married me, and for seven years I was happy. Then the time was over, and the boon was done. I came back. Only an hour had passed since I left.
    Time—and love—is funny that way.

    You got stones, kid

    SYSTEM: Any
    Here's an idea that you could translate to any system that uses hit points, whether it calls them hit points or stamina.
    1. Give the players a number of stones or chits or bennies or whatever (I'll call them stones right now) equal to their number of hit points.
    2. Instead of marking hits off the character sheet, they hand over stones.
    3. When you're out of stones, you're out of hit points.
    If you need a different in-game explanation, they're luck. Every attack is fatal; you're just buying off the lethality of the attack. When your character runs out of luck, he or she dies.

    In fact, if you call the stones "luck" then you open up different areas of resource management: they can succeed at the roll but at the risk of being less healthy, at least until they regain a bit of it through resting, healing, prayer, or whatever is appropriate to your game.

    You can make it more complicated:
    • Maybe there's BODY and STUN or Wounds and Shock, so there are two different kinds of stones. When you're out of the non-lethal ones, you have to start spending the lethal ones.
    • Or maybe you have hit stones and bennies. You can spend bennies on anything, but hit stones can only be spent on surviving attacks.
    • Maybe you set up some stones that reflect armor, so you have, oh, three in front of you. If the attack does more than three, you spend the excess. If the attack does more than twice the number of stones you have as armor, you lose some armor. Or a critical means they ignore the armor. Or a critical means extra damage, whether you have armor or not.

    Since the idea is that it makes things physical instead of abstract, you probably don't want to complicate it too much: it might be best for systems with a maximum number of hit points (less than, what, thirty?). Your seventeenth-level fighter might not be right for it. Or for systems where the amount of damage is constant, such as ICONS or CORPS: a Ruger Blackhawk always does the same amount of damage.

    You may not wnat to use this idea for a system that tracks the stun for hit locations (like the afore-mentioned CORPS). The idea is to make this simpler not to make it more complicated by each hit location having 10 stun and 10 lethal stones.

    Anyway, the idea of a pool of markers in front of you getting smaller and smaller seemed to me like an interesting visual way of representing declining hit points.

    Monday, July 16, 2018

    Some themed topic proposals

    My real reason for themed days is to make it easier to think of topics for the days and therefore make content more regular. A creative laxative, if you will. Any ideas for topics or areas to cover?

    My current ideas:

    • Minion Monday: some low-level character or variant who occus in numbers (at least until I run dry for a while)
    • Hideout Hump Day: a place (often a hideout) but maybe a vehicle
    • “Every Other” Tuesday: Some other game system or something else entirely than ICONS
    • What-If Wednesday: Seeds or nuggets or ideas that might spark adventures
    • Throwback Thursday: the past, man: an old comics age or a recollection from my boring past
    • Fiction Friday: Once the stock of stories is used up, these will be posts about fixtion: consuming it or producing it or converting it to roleplaying

    There will also occasionally be reviews or thoughts about structure or questions—my brain won’t stop producing those, even if only rarely.

    Currently binging: iZombie